Welcome to Writers' Wednesday! In celebration of Small Press Month, all comments left on EITHER a WW post OR a special weekend author feature this month will be tossed into a hat for a chance to win a grand prize goodie basket -- lots of cool books, both hard copy and ebook! I'll be posting more details in the coming days, but until then, today is your first chance for entries...so comment away!
Hi, Minnette, and thanks for being here today. Tell us about your latest writing project or published title.
Thanks, Allie…it’s so nice to chat with you!
I was very honored to have my first two romances published by Resplendence Publishing, The Centurion & The Queen and The Edge of Honor. Both books deal with ancient Roman Britannia, around 60AD, and feature Marius, a stern, sexy Roman Centurion, and Delia, a fiery kick ass Celtic Queen. They struggle against the backdrop of a revolution to find love and fight together against the indomitable Roman army to save Delia’s dying Celtic people. For excerpts, go to CENTURION or EDGE.
How do you go about developing your characters?
I struggled with character development for years, trying a lot of methods that didn’t work for me. Then one day, someone sent me this wonderful character development sheet and it worked wonders! (Here’s a link for anyone interested – it’s the last on the list.) I also realized two things: 1. All human beings are flawed; and 2. The best way to get to know a character is to close your eyes and jump right into the middle of their skulls with both feet.
You have to show those flaws and what’s on their mind. For example; Delia is a kick ass Celtic Queen who is saving the dying Celts from the Roman invasion, an impossible task. Sounds very heroic, doesn’t it? But here’s the deal; she’s terrified she’ll make a mistake, feels like a roiling mass of fear most of the time, and can’t abide horses, even though her people practically live on the beasts. She makes snap, rash decisions at times, and some of them bad. Marius is your standard handsome, brave, and normally flawless Roman Centurion; a man men would follow off a cliff if he ordered it. But inside, he hates violence, even though he’s the best swordsman in Rome, feels compassion for the people he has been ordered to conquer, and also makes rash decisions (especially when it comes to Delia). It’s what I call flaws, claws, and inward jaws…and we all have them. If you can build in some flaw to your character, inward turmoil or contradiction (one of my favorites), and mistakes into what they do, this give them dimension.
It’s the imperfections that make everyone interesting.
That's great advice. What other advice would you give to new writers just starting out?
This is what I tell all new writers:
1. Writing is 10% writing and 90% editing. Edit 'til you can't stand the thing, then do it three more times. Then have someone else edit it and then go through it three more times after that. You should be there when you start to change words BACK to what they used to be. Here’s a good example; I edited this interview for three hours before I was almost satisfied. You know you’re a writer when...you edit your IMs and text messages...
2. Get yourself a critiquing partner and a set of beta readers (family does nicely, especially if you have older kids...they do owe you; friends and co-worker are always good). LISTEN to what they have to say and be prepared for criticism. That’s what you don’t pay them for. A critiquing partner is absolutely an imperative and there are lots of groups out there that can help you find one...www.critters.org comes readily to mind, but there are many out there. Check in your genre. Or join a writing class in your community...that’s where my fabulous, wonderful, adorable partner came from.
3. Take classes, join associations, join groups, get involved in the writer's community (it's huge) and contribute to it. Harder to do than you think, believe me.
4. Be prepared to spend every waking hour on your dream and even some of your sleeping ones. The muse doesn't rest...at least until you need her, which leads me to...
5. DON'T RELY ON THE MUSE TO HELP YOU. (S)he will always let you down when you need her/him most. Being a published writer does not take inspiration, it takes dedication. You cannot wait until the art moves you...art is a lazy, drunken sod and it’s up to you to move it along. Hardest thing to do as a writer is to keep going. There are lots of tips on how to break writer’s block out there. The best advice I ever received? Get off your ass and hit those keys (or move that pen, if you’re a purest) - who cares what you write, just write.
6. Be kind, be loving, live well, and treat others well. When you critique someone or even give them an opinion on their work, keep in mind yours is (or will be) in another's hands one day. Creation is a fragile thing and easily destroyed...look at an egg sometime. I know; I shelved writing for twenty years because of a criticism. I regret it to this day.
7. You must develop a thick skin for this business...the whole “slings & arrows” thing. Not everyone is going to like your work....not everyone appreciates the hours that went into its creation...not everyone is kind. A gentle grace is needed to be a writer, I think...swear and punch through walls when you get home, but keep in mind it’s only one person’s opinion. You can choose to agree...or not. Did I mention this profession takes a bit of ego, as well?
8. There is no reward without sacrifice. When you see your name in print, the paperback crushed in your trembling hands, I promise, it will be worth all the pain. All you have to do then is write the next one...
What do you find most difficult about writing? What do you find most exciting or rewarding?
As a rule, I haven’t suffered much in the past from writers block, but recently, this has been a problem. I think this is always the most difficult thing about writing, especially after you’ve done it for a while. It’s frustrating and makes you want to cram your head into a vice until an idea…or your brains…pop out. As far as the most exciting or rewarding? It’s when you’re in the groove, when the world around you fades into a blur of god-like tendencies, when the words splash across page after page and you can’t get them out fast enough (typos be damned!). It’s when you don’t write the story, but the story writes you, and the muse is a screaming banshee standing on your shoulder, punching you in the ear. That’s the best…and it’s rare (not to mention exhausting).
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your book(s)?
Research is my second love and is constantly jealous of my first, so tries to tangle me in misguided avenues, riches of curiosity, and adventures down dark alleys of information that have nothing to do with my book. But for the Centurion books, the information was overwhelming! In many ways, even though I outline, the research drove so many aspects of these books I was amazed. The truth of the times, the harsh cruelties of the Romans…and the Celts…of those days, added grittiness, and an unexpected grandeur I hadn’t even imagined. This era was amazing. I have two more books I will be writing about it in the future.
What is your favorite movie? Did it inspire your writing in any way?
Recently, there have been two movies that have really inspired me, both musicals. Moulin Rouge and The Phantom of the Opera. The depth of their creativity really reached into some dwindling spark in me that came as a bit of a surprise. Moulin Rouge especially got me on my feet when I watched it…that hasn't happened since I was a kid. I continue to look for these same inspirations and have yet to find them. But I keep looking…Sublime imagination hardens with age, unfortunately; we really have to work for it as we get older (damn life lessons anyway!).
Thanks so much for sharing your journey with us. Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
I have been on a bit of a hiatus for a few months as my husband has been extremely ill and we’ve been fully focused on this recovery. I do have several new books contracted for 2009 and 2010: A Boy & His Wizard (children’s book) is slated for November 2009 with Stonegarden; Starsight III (epic fantasy) March 2010; A Boy & His Lizard, June 2010; and God Wars; the Starsight prequel, November 2010. I am also working on two new romances that haven’t been picked up yet; Keenan’s Dilemma (romantic paranormal comedy) and The Gladiator Prince (third book in the Centurion series).
Allie, thanks for this wonderful opportunity. I wish everyone blessings and beatings!